ChesLen Preserve: Serpentine Barrens Research

September 25, 2012

What’s going on out at ChesLen Preserve? Come out and see for yourself, but enjoy this gallery of images as a taste of what’s to come as I report on interesting observations and activities!

My name is William Ryan, and I am a doctoral student at the University of Delaware. My research is focused on serpentine grassland restoration ecology. Serpentine grasslands are rare ecosystems, characterized by a unique assemblage of plants. Their occurrence is directly correlated with the presence of serpentinite as an underlying geological formation and a history of vegetation disturbance. This rock type weathers to produce a soil that is notably low in calcium and high in magnesium, and often high in various heavy metals, including chromium and nickel. Most of our native flora cannot survive on this harsh and toxic substrate, thus leading to a unique “serpentine flora” – those that can tolerate the conditions. As part of my research, I am monitoring the plants and birds at the Unionville Serpentine Barrens to gauge how these organisms respond to the land management techniques that are being employed by Natural Lands Trust’s staff and scientific advisors. I have completed the first of three years of monitoring and have many anecdotes to share. The following are some images from the site this summer. Enjoy!

Posted by William Ryan 

rock sandwort (Minuartia michauxii)


large field mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium velutinum var. velutinum)


Appalachian groundsel (Packera anonyma)